By royal invitation we move into the second of the three great state rooms of this prayer, ‘Your kingdom come.’
Here we are brought face to face with the glory of the Lord; he is the King of Kings. The whole universe is his, he is Lord over all beings, good and evil, heavenly and earthly. The very existence of earth’s proud empires is in his hand and he laughs at the little human schemes that challenge his sovereignty. The whole earth is the Lord’s, to him belongs all power and glory and majesty.
On a personal level, on entering this awesome room, we do well if we find ourselves holding our breath, walking on tip-toe, overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of the one into whose presence we are bidden to come. Like the noble and godly prophet Isaiah of old, in the presence of the glory of the Lord, we find ourselves unworthy, undone and totally dependent upon his mercy.
In our own over-casual society, we need to be reminded of the awesome holiness and glory of God Almighty. The very nature of our heavenly Father, the one to whom we are invited to pray demands, not a cheery greeting but a bowed knee, . . . and wonder.
The kingdom of God is variously described in the New Testament as, ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ ‘The kingdom of God,’ ‘The kingdom of his beloved Son’ ‘The kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.’ We are called to pray that this kingdom may come, but called to pray not in terms of armies and conquests, not, indeed, in terms of human rule or territory at all. For the kingdom of God is not of this world. It is a kingdom that leaps every kind of human boundary; it cannot be contained by prison bars or chains, it cannot be excluded by political or religious barriers. It is not at all like the passing and territorial kingdoms and empires of this world. It is, rather, like seed growing in each nation. In some societies it flourishes, in others it is crushed, in some it all but withers away. There have been seasons in British history when the kingdom of God has grown, thrived and been fruitful beyond measure. But in our own day widespread, ungodly secular thinking, the pursuit of pleasure and the drive for material gain have all but choked it.
Where is the kingdom of heaven to be found?
Firstly, the kingdom comes here on earth where God the Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus, are honoured. As Jesus came to his own people, he said, ‘The kingdom of God is among you.’ He is the gateway, the door of the kingdom, he is the source of our forgiveness and wholeness. As people came and honoured him, so they became members of the kingdom. Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector for the occupying Roman overlords, was a man whose life was totally changed as he honoured the Lord; salvation came to his house. The kingdom came there.
Wherever God’s kingdom or rule is found, there will be totally changed people; people who will live for God; people who know the Lord Jesus for who he is; people in whose lives God the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. The kingdom of heaven is the joyful acceptance of the rule of God within our own individual lives. It is a kingdom of grace and forgiveness, giving us a fresh new start as a disciple of Christ, as a child of God and as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom touches us one by one and, through our changed lives, touches our homes, the affairs of those around us and ultimately the affairs of cities and nations.
Then, secondly, the kingdom of heaven is found among disciples as they meet together locally. It may be in great congregations or it may be in tiny groups in houses. Jesus said, ‘Where two or three are met in my name, I will be there.’ So, when we meet to pray together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to work together for the kingdom of heaven, Jesus promised that he, by his Holy Spirit, would be with us binding us together and giving a common mind. Groups of Christians meeting together to pray and encourage one another. Here is the Kingdom
Thirdly, the kingdom of heaven is among his people right across the world. From every nation, language and tribe, God is calling out a people for himself. Although our circumstances and cultures differ very greatly, it is thrilling, when we meet, to discover ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow citizens of his kingdom.
Finally, and supremely, the kingdom will come when the Lord Jesus returns. At present the Lord Jesus, his kingdom and his people can be sneered at, ignored and forgotten by the world at large. But, the Bible makes it plain that that will not be so when he returns. To him has been given all authority. He will return, not this time in humility, but with great power and glory as King of Kings and as judge of all people. Then every knee will bow.
‘Till he comes,’ is a constant theme of the New Testament. We are to watch and pray; we are to be about our Father’s business; we are to keep faith, we are to hold fast, ’till he comes.’ That phrase can ring in our hearts and minds as a motivation for all we do and think.
Here, then, is the kingdom as it touches this world; where Jesus is honoured in individual lives, among his people both locally and internationally and when he returns in glory.
Then, in practice, how should we pray, ‘Your kingdom come’?
The petition is very practical, for under this heading can come all our prayers concerning the shaping of our own lives; all our prayers for our loved ones and family; all our prayers for the people with whom we mix day by day at work, at leisure and in our local community. Only then, can we look out and catch the magnificent vision of our town, our country, our world won for the kingdom of heaven.
Every great house has its particular places from which can be seen the most magnificent views. Views not only over formal gardens and the estate but sweeping on and over woodland, farmland and maybe out to sea. Such is the view given to us as we pray, ‘Your kingdom come.’
The Great Commission to bring the gospel to the world is here in the phrase, ‘Your kingdom come.’ Here is the heart of all true mission and outreach. How then should we pray for missionaries of the gospel wherever they may be? What should be the content of our prayers? Pray, certainly, for their provision and safety and for God’s overruling hand on their circumstances – all the subjects of this great prayer – but supremely, pray that our Father’s kingdom may come:
– Pray that as they speak and live alongside people, men and women and young people may be touched by the Holy Spirit of God; that the Lord’s presence and glory may be known amongst that people.
– Pray that as they train and encourage local Christians, a local church may be born, the kingdom may come.
I shall never forget the impact of the words of a Kenyan pastor who, on coming to this country, was at pains to thank us as a people for sending out our finest sons and daughters to bring the gospel to Kenya the century before. How far would the bringing of the kingdom of God to an unknown and perhaps dangerous people feature in our hopes and ambitions for ourselves or for our children?
We need to pray that God’s kingdom would come in our own land, too. We live in a land where, by and large, people have turned away from God, regard him as irrelevant. Pray, therefore, for spiritual revival; that we may turn again to him. Pray that God would revive his church and raise up those who will relevantly teach what the apostles taught. Pray that across our nation he will give people a spiritual hunger. The disciples were accused of filling Jerusalem with their teaching. May our cities and towns also be filled with faithful, godly teaching. Pray that men and women and young people might bow the knee to the Lord Jesus. Here is the grand purpose of fellowship groups, Sunday schools and youngsters’ clubs – not just for friendship or entertainment but for the kingdom of God. Pray that, through them, God would raise up godly leaders in the church, godly leaders in politics, medicine, education and in every area of our national life. The purposes of God are tied up with the local Church.
Do we share this longing that God’s kingdom might come where we live? That the Lord God might touch lives, by his Holy spirit, in and through our local church?
Finally, and least comfortably, as we pray, ‘Your kingdom come,’ we do well to pause and think about our own lives. ‘Lord God show me where I stand before you, that I might not deceive myself, or wear a mask before others.’
In this great room, if we have eyes to see the kingdom at all, we immediately find ourselves unmasked and unworthy. We are challenged to examine ourselves to see if we, ourselves, are truly part of the kingdom; challenged, also, to see if the rule of God is touching every part of our lives.
We tend to put our lives in little packets, little compartments, all kept separately. The slot on Sunday morning or Sunday evening may well be ‘very godly’, but our heavenly Father wants us to be people of integrity, all of a piece. Not just Sunday, but Saturday night and Monday morning; business, pleasure and worship all brought under his rule. It is too easy to think of whole areas of our life as being quite outside God’s concern, areas that we couldn’t possibly pray about or ask for the Holy Spirit’s guiding or control. For example, anger, resentment, family relationships; or maybe, our use of time, handling of money; our sex life, ambitions or career. But should this be so? If we are truly disciples of Christ should we not be able to pray about each and every part of our lives and say, ‘Lord, I want to please you, by your grace may your kingdom come, may your will be done in this part of my life’?
Finally, in this simple petition our Lord inspires the question that every true disciple needs, constantly, to be asking: ‘What would my Father have me to do for his kingdom? What part can I play? What gifts, what windows of opportunity, has my heavenly Father given me to help build, strengthen or establish his kingdom locally, nationally, internationally?’ Here, in so short a phrase, is the whole purpose of life! ‘Your kingdom come.’
‘Father, we thank you, again, for your mercy towards us. In thankfulness may we honour you, not only with our lips, but in our lives. Hasten the day when your kingdom comes in every part of our own lives, in our homes, our churches, cities and throughout your lovely, but rebellious world, for the glory of your great and holy name.’
- Isaiah before God – Isaiah 6:1-5
- ‘Power and glory and majesty’ – 1 Chronicles 29:11
- ‘The kingdom of heaven’ – Matthew 3:2, 4:17,10:7
- ‘The kingdom of God’ – Matthew 6:33
- ‘The kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ – Revelation 11:15
- ‘The kingdom of his beloved Son’ – Colossians 1:3
- ‘Not of this world’ – John 18:36
- ‘The kingdom among you’ – Luke 17:21
- Jesus, the door of the kingdom – John 10:9
- Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10
- Nicodemus – John 3:1-8
- ‘A new creation’ – 2 Corinthians 5:17
- ‘Two or three in my name’ – Matthew 18:20
- ‘From every nation, language and tribe’ – Revelation 5:9
- ‘Until he comes’ – 1 Corinthians 11:26
- ‘Watch and pray’ – Mark 13:32-37
- ‘In power and glory’ – Mark 13:26 & 14:62
- ‘Every knee shall bow’ – Philippians 2:5-11
- The Great Commission – Matthew 28:19&20
- In our culture have we lost the perspective of the awesomeness of God our heavenly Father? Are we more likely to approach him with a cheery greeting than with awe and wonder?
- How has our heavenly Father chosen to re-establish his rule on earth? Could it be coloured on an atlas as an empire?
- Can you think of someone you know whose life has been totally changed by the coming of the kingdom of heaven?
- In what local group, known to you, can the kingdom of heaven be found?
- In what way will the kingdom eventually touch every nation?
- At present the kingdom of God can be ignored or sneered at – will it always be so?
- Why should, ‘Your kingdom come,’ be most important in our praying for our friends and family?
- How can such a simple petition be at the heart of all missionary and outreach work?
- ‘We cannot truly pray, “Your kingdom come,” without it touching the way we live, our career, our prayer life, and the way we use our money.’ Is this true? If it is, are we truly praying it?
- Is the grand purpose of our local church, its groups and young people’s work, friendship and wholesome entertainment or the kingdom of heaven?
- How easy is it to packet parts of our own life quite separately? Would we admit to having areas of life that we have yet to bring under the rule of Christ?
- Does Christian maturity lie in the direction of being disciples in every area of our lives, of being all of a piece, consistently Christian?